#Author. Should you think about translating your book? 2. Lost in Translation. Adventures when translating your book for China

Hi all:

You might remember that last week I wrote a post asking the above question and listed a few reasons why authors might consider translating their books. (In case you missed it, here it is. As I translate from English to Spanish and vice versa I had prepared a talk about the subject and it occurred to me that I could sample some points of it here). I found the discussion that followed the post interesting, and Teagan Geneviene (I recommend her blog if you love great stories and recipes, check it here) reminded me of a story I had told her about some of my experiences when using Fiberead to get my book translated for the Chinese market.  And I thought you might find it interesting. I surely did.

It brought to mind how I had started originally the presentation about translations…

Here it is:

What does the word ‘translation’ bring to your mind?

In my case, it always makes me think of a scene in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. Bill Murray plays an actor filming a spirits’ advert in Japan (I think it was brandy) and the director is giving him instructions. As he doesn’t understand Japanese, there is an interpreter. The director talks for several minutes, gesticulating, quite intensely. He eventually stops talking and the interpreter just tells him that he wants him to say the lines looking at the camera. ‘Is that all he said?’ Yes, we’re never quite sure. (By the way, you can watch the scene that goes on, here:

Of course, that’s interpreting (rendering live and orally a conversation, conference, speech…) whilst translation implies a written piece of work, but there are connections.

It also makes me think of the risks of mistranslating texts. In the case of the Bible mistranslating a Hebrew word and instead of rendering it as ‘beam of light’ it ended up becoming ‘horn’ and we have poor Moses depicted with horns (and not only in Michelangelo’s famous sculpture, that judging by the small size of the horns, makes me think that he wasn’t that convinced about the translation). Oh yes, if you’ve used Google Translate (that seems to be improving, to be fair) you know all about that.

And now, I wanted to tell you a bit about my experiences with Fiberead, that is a website that offers you to get your books translated for the Chinese market. If they are interested, you give them the rights to the translation for a number of years, and you spilt the earning with them and with the translating. Yes, team…

What happens is that a team leader or manager decides that your book is worth translating, and then they set about getting a team of translators to translate the book. I’m not sure how the division of work is made, but I know you get notifications when evidently translators provide a sample translation and the team leader decides if it’s good enough. Once they think they have a big enough team, they start the process. The beauty of it is that they contact you with questions if they have them. In general in my case it’s been mostly the team managers but sometimes also other members of the team.

I realised when they started to ask me about my YA novella Twin Evils?, asking me if Lucifer and Satan were the same, and asking for the meaning of references to angels playing harps or being dressed in white, that of course, although the novella is not religious, such content would not be understood in a mostly non-Christian country. And although I tried to send them links to images of angels playing the harp, I am also aware that some links to websites might not work there. We might assume that certain things are common knowledge, but the world is huge and people’ s beliefs and lifestyles very different to ours.

Some of the other questions showed extreme literalness. It might be to do with the language, but when I tried to explain that I prefered to allow the readers to make up their minds as to why characters might say or do certain things (whatever I thought the reason was) they wanted a full explanation. I suspect ambiguity is not a well-received quality.

I had some interesting and curious exchanges too, like a policeman who told me he was translating one of my thrillers (so far, although not published yet as they’re still in production, they are working on both of my Escaping Psychiatry stories and have also translated Family, Lust and Cameras, so they seem intrigued by my thrillers) and really enjoying it, and I had the manager for the translation of one of my books asking me for help understanding a couple of pages she was trying to translate for a different project.

Ah, and to give them their due, they caught a mistake that neither I, nor quite a few readers and editors of both my Spanish and my English book had seen, so, kudos to them.

Here I leave you the cover of the other one of my books available so far (and that although it hasn’t been out very long, it seems to be doing much better than Twin Evils? and for sure much better in the Chinese version than in Spanish and English).

Family, Lust and Cameras by Olga Núñez Miret version for the Chinese market
Family, Lust and Cameras by Olga Núñez Miret version for the Chinese market

Thanks very much for reading, and if you’ve found it interesting, please, like, share, comment, and CLICK!

Olga Núñez Miret

http://www.authortranslatorolga.com

 

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16 thoughts on “#Author. Should you think about translating your book? 2. Lost in Translation. Adventures when translating your book for China”

  1. Firstly congrats on another book translated and released to the Chinese market, Olga. Awesome!
    Thank you kindly for the mention and for including my link. It was a fascinating discussion to me. I very much enjoyed what you related here. It does seem that the Chinese in general are more receptive to stories that are not grounded in a Christian culture. You are very correct in that we often forget (even non religious folk) just how much of our day-to-day life is enveloped in that kind of thing. Mega hugs!

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  2. I’ve got as far as the team leader picking up the book i least thought likely for tranlsation, and they suggested I cnatact him, but i was not able to get through – the link didn’t work. So I just sit and wait I guess.

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    1. Hi, Lucinda. In my case I’ve left it to them to contact me and they usually do if they have any questions. If you enter into Fiberead there is a tab for messages and if your book has been picked up if you try and message it will go directly to the person working on it (I have no understanding how it works, but it does). I did send a message to the manager of the first book, but other than getting a polite reply I realised that’s all part of the automated messages they send you. I had many messages for another one of the books that was delayed but the manager told me they always sent them automatically and they could be ignored. Yes, one just hopes they have a better understanding of the market than we do. Different teams seem to work at different speeds, because the first book they picked up hasn’t been finished yet, whilst two others they started working on later are out already… One never knows. It’s an experience. Good luck!

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        1. The same has happened to me. They chose some of them quite quickly but others not. So far, in my case, they’ve gone for the thrillers and one that is a young adult story. I guess it depends on the taste of the managers or what they think might sell.

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    1. If we know somebody who speaks or reads that language we can always ask a favour, otherwise… I guess we’ll have to ‘believe’ it’s OK. In the Fiberead case, from the discussions I’ve had with the teams it seems they revise together, because sometimes I’ve had to be the referee between different members of the teams as to what something meant, so one hopes between them all they’d come up with something adjusted for quality. I guess if all the reviews say it’s terrible… But yes, I imagine it’s a similar thing to what would happen if the book was with a traditional publisher or we sold the rights to the translation; we wouldn’t really know what was going on.
      In the Moses case it was also a matter of interpretation. Hopefully we’re more open to questioning things these days rather than accepting authoritative versions but…
      Thanks, Debby!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You said it, we must question. As for big publishers, I would think that even with translation, they’d have someone on staff or paid contract to reread the translation, making sure it’s true to the book. That’s something the average indie author couldn’t afford. 🙂 Trust + diligence 🙂

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        1. One shouldn’t expect a lot from traditional publishers any longer, for what I hear (and for what one reads sometimes one catches quite a few mistakes in traditionally published books, and that’s not translated versions). The issue with translations is that although quite a few might be correct, different translator would do different things, and like with movie or TV versions of books, some people might prefer one or the other. Of course, there will be things that will be just incorrect, but there are well-known authors who are also known for their translations and translations awards. It’s an art for sure. 🙂

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    1. Thanks, David. I’m sure you’ll find your interaction with the team a neverending source of entertainment (mind you, for one of my books I got no questions whatsoever. I guess it depends on the managers). Yes, I’ve found them quite literal but again it probably depends on how exposed they might be to outside sources. I hope you keep us informed! And good luck!

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